Like election cycles and diapering and menopause, change happens. It’s how we handle the change that separates the men from the boys, the actual wonder women from the virtual enhancements of wonder women.
Some incipient examples of change in my family ecosystem: My eldest just discovered he’s got a knack for freestyle ninja parkour at camp this week. My youngest has decided to boycott naptime at preschool. My husband just texted to say he put a down payment on a new-used car because our old one started squealing like a stuck pig, smelling bad (alright, worse), and seizing up at inopportune times.
For my part, I’m contemplating the impossible: life without coffee. In its place, “a 100 percent natural caffeine free drink with a coffee-like taste” (and good god they really need a new copy writer because that sounds terrible).
Also, our closest neighbors just moved to Canada, which proves they’re way more transactionally savvy than we are and not at all afraid of a serious mofo change. Their kids were friends with our kids. They both worked, like we do. They liked running and biking, like we do. They could throw a great party, like we have done and may get organized enough to do again someday.
Point being, we’d been dealt a good neighbor hand – a Full House if you want to get nerdy about it. On a quiet gravel road in rural Vermont, this is a huge bonus.
So, the big question of the summer: Who’s moving in?
Ever since J and D put their house on the market, I’ve been texting for updates, trying to act casual about it: “Such incredible news! So happy for you.” (…) “Any interest yet?”
Meanwhile, the excitable extrovert in me prays daily for a serendipitous windfall that will somehow install another lovely family next door, one with smart, interesting adults – like-minded sociopolitical persuasions a plus – and kids our kids’ ages. They will be funny and fun, charming even, have complimentary parenting philosophies, share a love of live music, great food, the outdoors. Surely, the fates will find a way….
Then came the day J texted the news: “We’re under contract with a family from NYC! They have a boy about Jack’s age who also loves soccer and a daughter Finn’s age entering kindergarten.”
“Are you joking?!” I speed-thumb back.
“No! I think you’ll like them.”
I am instantly giddy with relief. I know almost nothing about these city escapists, and yet my brain has already fully rendered them as dear friends who we’ll be happy to see casually wandering up our driveway for impromptu brunches and bonfires, and who won’t mind if our boys bushwhack a trail between properties.
We’ll be each other’s emergency contacts for rec league soccer and summer camp. We’ll tag-team when that call comes from the principal with news of a water main break at school. We’ll share easy crockpot recipes and cocktail recipes and dentist recommendations and parenting blunders and be able to say things like, “Give me five, I’ll be right over.”
Beyond the friendship potential, I am eager to hear what they think about this place. We broke ground 12 years ago, and my husband’s family taproot reaches back close to 40. We’re pretty accustomed to life here. There are few big surprises.
We know the land in all its seasons and who’s likely to vote for whom, even if they split the ticket. We know the produce guys at the market who let the kids use the employee bathroom when it just can’t wait. We talk with John at the gas pump about the weather, his grandkids, and how much money they’ve collected for the town fireworks display this year.
It’ll be interesting to watch a family from Manhattan adjust to our town of 4,000. What will stand out to them? What will they notice? What will they find amusing, bizarre, offensive, beautiful? What will make them laugh and what will drive them nuts? What will they call us about or need help with? Are they the kind of people who call and need help? How will they change our experience of living here? How will they surprise us?
In about one week, we’ll find out.
In the meantime, New Neighbors, here’s a list of things I thought you might like to know about your soon-to-be home:
1 | There’s a way to get between your house and our house that is not the road. Requires bug spray, long pants, and a sturdy pair of shoes.
2 | If we don’t come to the door right away, have a seat on the porch or feel free to pass the time on the trampoline. We’re either down in the studio, reading on the toilet, working on the fort, have earbuds in, or we’re out. In the latter case, leave a note. In all other cases, just yell.
3 | My in-laws live off the grid at the end of our driveway. They moved here from Boston when my husband was six. Before that, they lived in Berkeley. Evidence that city transplants never go back.
4 | Get to know the Bells. They make amazing syrup. Also, the Zuckerman-Nevitts, our local organic farmers/awesomely outspoken civil servants. Also, Eugenie and Sam, who grow the most delicious strawberries on Earth.
5 | Ticks are a thing here. A serious thing. Make tick checks part of your bedtime routine.
6 | Don’t walk in the woods during hunting season unless you wear fuchsia or neon orange from head to toe. This is also a serious thing.
7 | If you hear something that sounds like mating monkeys in the woods at night, it’s actually barred owls. Coyotes will make a racket at night, too, when the pack has made a kill.
8 | The fireflies are good in June, but best in July. Our front field is a dynamite viewing spot.
9 | If you’re down for an ultra-local camping “excursion,” feel free to use the small clearing at the top of the cliff this side of the property line. Great sunset views from up there. Also, a squatter lived there for a while, so his fire ring might still be intact.
10 | Remind us to show you the way to the hidden meadow.
11 | Your house used to be occupied by animals. Wild ones. Yeah. But J and D completely gutted it and restored – or perhaps invented – its architectural integrity, so you’re in the clear. Nothing to worry about. The pigeons and mourning doves, and the weasels and fisher cats that hunted the pigeons and mourning doves, cleared out long ago, after the former resident (a fantastically eccentric .22-toting lesbian bird enthusiast dairy farmer who used to own much of the property on this road) passed on. I’m fairly certain none of this has anything to do with the slight sulphur smell of your well water.
12 | We tried to change the bus routes so they’d come down our road. No dice. Sorry about that. The other options are either a speedy car drop or a short bike ride away.
13 | We have the most incredible babysitter. Sometimes I think the kids like her better than me, which works in our favor on date nights. We will share her contact info with you…in trade. Negotiations TBD.
14 | If you want to heat with wood, even partially, get green cords delivered in spring. They’ll be cheaper and dry out come fall.
15 | The plow guys are great if you manage to dig your car out before they get to you. Otherwise, they pack a dense, impenetrable block around your vehicle, at which point it makes sense to just call in a snow day.
16 | This reminds me – our friends’ yard is the best sledding hill this side of town. We’ll introduce you.
17 | Vermont isn’t Soho, but it’s got a surprisingly rich cultural scene. Painters. Writers. Musicians. Filmmakers. Photographers. Sculptors. Potters. Woodworkers. Lots of fascinating people making great art. We’ll introduce you.
18 | We like wine a lot. And also beer (current fav brewed across from the post office by an old grad school friend). If not wine or beer, what do you like? Spirits? Bloodies? Mimosas? Spiked mulled cider? A well-crafted Martini or Sidecar? We can make arrangements. Come on over post-BT, a.k.a. anytime after 8:30 p.m.
J finally made it to Toronto and connected me with the mom of the new family. We’ve been texting ever since. We’ve also admitted to screening each other on Facebook because, let’s face it, that’s what people do. We discovered that we signed our kids up for the same soccer camp this summer – a clear sign of natural like-mindedness. And she dropped her first f-bomb the other day, so I’m pretty much certain we’ll be friends.
Also, the title of this article was her idea. I’d say we’re off to a good start.